What May 4th Means

May 4, 2010

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

There are matters of policy and there are matters of decency. Agree or not with the Vietnam War or President Obama’s “radicalism on rails,” Americans of all stripes cherish the right to civil and open dissent. There is something altogether sinister, then, to the American spirit when the powerful remove conversation from the shaping of the country’s direction by answering words with force. Forty years ago, today, Ohio Guardsmen shot into a crowd of Vietnam War protesters on the campus of Kent State University, not ten miles from my house, killing four, wounding nine, and ending any notion that civility would trump amoral ambition.

I don’t blame the Guardsmen. I have trouble fixing an inordinate amount of blame on President Nixon, either. Some witnesses testify to harassment of the young men in uniform, some as young as eighteen, surrounded by a sea of angry faces and having balloons popped near them to keep them on edge. Nixon, in continuing a war started by his political rival Kennedy and continued by his predecessor, Johnson, was attempting to manage what he knew was a bad situation. The drumbeat that turned “suits” against “long-hairs” had been coming from the media for quite some time. The names you know and connect to Kent State have the blame for their individual parts. The responsibility for the storm, though, falls heavily on the media and their rain dance.

What do we learn? If we fail to absorb the tragedy, we’re setting ourselves up for another one. Conservatives and libertarians have taken the mantle from the peaceful left that comprised the bulk of the protesters at Kent State. Nearly every day in this country, a Tea Party serves as a place where people gather to protest big government, closed-door deals, and oppression. In other words, while the targets have changed, the critique is very much the same. It’s no accident that you’ll find people who protested Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia 4o years ago carrying signs to protest Obama’s bureaucratic overreach, today.

What has changed and become, in many ways, much more insidious is that the media is no longer at odds with our would-be masters. Instead of stirring up tensions between Nixon’s “silent majority” and hippies, the mainstream media is now carrying the President’s water in demonizing dissent and amplifying the “post-partisan” divider-in-chief’s calls to violence. When Obama says “if they bring a knife, you bring a gun” or “punch back twice as hard,” the media excuses his rhetoric. When Homeland Security calls defenders of the constitution and pro-life demonstrators potential terrorists or the military trains to deal with Tea Parties, they are silent. In a world where objective reporting is impossible, those excuse the instigators are accomplices. There is no better evidence of this culpability than how the left has adopted the language and stance of the administration. Notice they’re not planning to question those corporate dollars they complain about fueling the protests (still waiting for my check) but instead they plan to “crash the tea party.”

The events of May 4th, 1970, may have done much to turn the tide of the national discourse on the Vietnam War. Not long after, Nixon began to draw down the conflict before soon calling for total withdrawal. In much the same way, the Obama administration is one tragedy away from having to hem in the failed “war on poverty.” With a complicit media to run cover for the White House and “rebel left” being a sad joke, anymore, there are few guarantees as to how such an incident would play out. With Oath Keepers in practically every military unit we have, there are few guarantees that even a direct order to shoot Tea Partiers would be followed. Nonetheless, even victory over religion of the state would not wash away the blood that our President is edging closer to drawing.

Stay strong, keep the volume up, and pray for both our victory and safety. To borrow from another song of the era, “I hope Neil Young will remember…” that with God we are never “on our own.”